The spine is made up of small bones called vertebrae that are stacked on top of each other, with a cushioning disc between each of the 24 articulating bones of the spine. The base of the spine, forming the coccyx and sacrum, are made of fused vertebrae. Ligaments and muscles support the spine, and all healthy spines have 3 natural curves, at the neck (cervical spine), thoracic or chest region, and in the low back, or lumbar spine. When your doctor examines your spine from the back, it should run straight through the middle, without curving to one side or another. Abnormalities of curvature consist of three primary conditions.
Lordosis is a deformity of curvature in which the spine curves inward in an exaggerated fashion at the lower back. Kyphosis is a “hunched” back, which is abnormally rounded and prevents the patient from lifting their head in severe cases. Scoliosis refers to a sideways curve visible when examining the spine from the back. The curve may be shaped like either a C or an S.
Scoliosis often runs in families, but the exact cause is not known. Lordosis can result from achondroplasia, a disease of abnormal bone growth that also causes short stature. Sponylolisthesis can cause abnormal curvature when a vertebra in the lower back slips forward onto the next vertebrae. Obesity can put abnormal pressure on the vertebral column, causing abnormal curvature, and osteoporosis, which may cause compression fractures, will result in abnormal spinal curvature. Inflammation of the disc space between the vertebrae can also result in lordosis.
Kyphosis can be congenital, caused by abnormal intrauterine development. Sometime, poor posture results in significant kyphosis. Arthritis and osteoporosis are also common etiologies of kyphosis. Spinal infections and tumors, as well as the defect of spinal closure known as spina bifida, are other causes. There is a disease known as Scheuermann’s disease that is characterized by vertebrae that are misshapen.
Symptoms of spinal curvature problems vary depending upon the type of curvature abnormality and the severity. Swayback is a common feature of lordosis, and movement may be limited in certain directions. Back pain can easily result from lordosis. Kyphosis causes a hunched back with the head bent forward with respect to the body. A sensation of weakness or fatigue may result in the back or legs in patients with kyphosis. Back pain may not occur with kyphosis, but physical activity can sometimes result in discomfort.
Scoliosis will result in postural abnormalities, with uneven shoulder height, and a tendency to lean to one side.
All disorders of spinal curvature do not require surgery. There are physical therapies and strengthening programs to increase flexibility, and a back brace may be utilized. Weight loss is often recommended in obese patients with lordosis. Anti-inflammatory medications are helpful for relief of discomfort. If the problem is severe, surgery may be the only option.
If you have a disorder of spinal curvature, you should call us at 201.729.0001 for an evaluation today. We offer weekday and weekend appointments. You can find us at our conveniently located clinics in West Orange, Aberdeen, and Lyndhurst.